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CWE-1249: Application-Level Admin Tool with Inconsistent View of Underlying Operating System

Weakness ID: 1249
Vulnerability Mapping: ALLOWEDThis CWE ID may be used to map to real-world vulnerabilities
Abstraction: BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.
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+ Description
The product provides an application for administrators to manage parts of the underlying operating system, but the application does not accurately identify all of the relevant entities or resources that exist in the OS; that is, the application's model of the OS's state is inconsistent with the OS's actual state.
+ Extended Description

Many products provide web-based applications or other interfaces for managing the underlying operating system. This is common with cloud, network access devices, home networking, and other systems. When the management tool does not accurately represent what is in the OS - such as user accounts - then the administrator might not see suspicious activities that would be noticed otherwise.

For example, numerous systems utilize a web front-end for administrative control. They also offer the ability to add, alter, and drop users with various privileges as it relates to the functionality of the system. A potential architectural weakness may exist where the user information reflected in the web interface does not mirror the users in the underlying operating system. Many web UI or REST APIs use the underlying operating system for authentication; the system's logic may also track an additional set of user capabilities within configuration files and datasets for authorization capabilities. When there is a discrepancy between the user information in the UI or REST API's interface system and the underlying operating system's user listing, this may introduce a weakness into the system. For example, if an attacker compromises the OS and adds a new user account - a "ghost" account - then the attacker could escape detection if the management tool does not list the newly-added account.

This discrepancy could be exploited in several ways:

  • A rogue admin could insert a new account into a system that will persist if they are terminated or wish to take action on a system that cannot be directly associated with them.
  • An attacker can leverage a separate command injection attack available through the web interface to insert a ghost account with shell privileges such as ssh.
  • An attacker can leverage existing web interface APIs, manipulated in such a way that a new user is inserted into the operating system, and the user web account is either partially created or not at all.
  • An attacker could create an admin account which is viewable by an administrator, use this account to create the ghost account, delete logs and delete the first created admin account.

Many of these attacker scenarios can be realized by leveraging separate vulnerabilities related to XSS, command injection, authentication bypass, or logic flaws on the various systems.

+ Alternate Terms
Ghost in the Shell
+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
ChildOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1250Improper Preservation of Consistency Between Independent Representations of Shared State
+ Modes Of Introduction
Section HelpThe different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.
Architecture and DesignThe design might assume that the underlying OS does not change.
ImplementationAssumptions about the underlying OS might be hard-coded into the application or otherwise in external data stores in a way that is not updated when the OS's state changes.
+ Applicable Platforms
Section HelpThis listing shows possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.


Class: Not Language-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: Not OS-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Web Based (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences
Section HelpThis table specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Varies by Context


Technical Impact: Hide Activities


Technical Impact: Unexpected State

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Suppose that an attacker successfully gains root privileges on a Linux system and adds a new 'user2' account:

(attack code)
Example Language: Other 
echo "user2:x:0:0::/root:/" >> /etc/passwd;
echo "user2:\$6\$IdvyrM6VJnG8Su5U\$1gmW3Nm.IO4vxTQDQ1C8urm72JCadOHZQwqiH/nRtL8dPY80xS4Ovsv5bPCMWnXKKWwmsocSWXupUf17LB3oS.:17256:0:99999:7:::" >> /etc/shadow;

This new user2 account would not be noticed on the web interface, if the interface does not refresh its data of available users.

It could be argued that for this specific example, an attacker with root privileges would be likely to compromise the admin tool or otherwise feed it with false data. However, this example shows how the discrepancy in critical data can help attackers to escape detection.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Ensure that the admin tool refreshes its model of the underlying OS on a regular basis, and note any inconsistencies with configuration files or other data sources that are expected to have the same data.

+ Memberships
Section HelpThis MemberOf Relationships table shows additional CWE Categories and Views that reference this weakness as a member. This information is often useful in understanding where a weakness fits within the context of external information sources.
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1415Comprehensive Categorization: Resource Control
+ Vulnerability Mapping Notes


(this CWE ID could be used to map to real-world vulnerabilities)

Reason: Acceptable-Use


This CWE entry is at the Base level of abstraction, which is a preferred level of abstraction for mapping to the root causes of vulnerabilities.


Carefully read both the name and description to ensure that this mapping is an appropriate fit. Do not try to 'force' a mapping to a lower-level Base/Variant simply to comply with this preferred level of abstraction.
+ References
[REF-1070] Tony Martin. "Ghost in the Shell Weakness". 2020-02-13. <>. URL validated: 2023-04-07.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(CWE 4.0, 2020-02-24)
Tony Martin
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2023-01-31CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Mapping_Notes
Page Last Updated: February 29, 2024